Meals on Wheels running on empty

Meals on Wheels running on empty

The service that guarantees Spokane seniors have a hot, healthy meal every day is running on empty. Spokane Meals on Wheels leaders are worried about how they’ll be able to serve the growing group of people who need help.

Volunteers packed up precious parcels of food, rolled them out to vehicles, and hit the road Monday with the mission to feed seniors. Volunteer Bill Rafferty knows his route well. His first stop was a downtown apartment complex where Stephen Swaner was expecting him.

“I was so worried that I was going to miss you guys today,” Swaner said.

The 62-year-old man counts on this delivery. It’s a hot meal and a visit from a cheerful delivery man. Rafferty may be Swaner’s only visitor for days. That’s a common story for the more than 300 seniors the Spokane branch serves Monday through Friday, according to Meals on Wheels Spokane Executive Director Mollie Dalpae.

“Eighty seven percent say we’re the only person they see or talk to all day long, so we are a critical part of their lives,” Dalpae said.

But, money is tight. Dalpae said Meals on Wheels Spokane is already nearly $17,000 over budget. That was at the end of March.

“People are retiring or aging, as we all know, the whole world is, and they are faced with the fact that they can’t afford to eat well or can no longer make a decent meal for themselves,” Dalpae said.

That’s no surprise to Dalpae. What is a surprise is the number of people signing up for the Meals on Wheels service in Spokane. It’s far exceeded expectations accounted for in this year’s budget.

“We are really getting very, very nervous about being able to meet the need continuing throughout the year,” Dalpae said.

Running low on money means not being able to help more people like Swaner. He said Meals on Wheels has made a big difference in his life.

“My quality of life has improved, I’ll say that,” Swaner.

It means more seniors could go without a warm meal and without someone to check on them to make their day a little bit better.

On Monday, Subaru of Spokane awarded Spokane Meals on Wheels a $43,000 check to support their work.

Meals on Wheels has volunteer opportunities available and ways to support their mission through donations and special events. Click here to learn more.